The V60: A week (or so) on
Published on under the Coffee category.
This is the third and final post in a three-part series on my adventures learning how to use the Hario V60.
Last week, I was excited to receive the V60 I had ordered in the post. The next coffee I made that day was brewed using the V60 and it was a drinkable brew. I was not especially pleased with the coffee but I did drink the cup until the end. I made more cups of coffee using the V60 last week, using every opportunity I could to improve my brew. Time after time I made cups which were good but not great.
Before I got my V60, I had read that the device was more of a challenge to use than other brewers. I did not let this deter me and plunged deep into V60 brewing. I looked up tutorials online and read tips on how to use the V60 and I felt confident about using the device. When I got the device, I turned to these resources again to help me get started. I ended up using my Kalita Wave recipe on the device to start which turned out to be not too far away from a few brew guides I had read later on. Realising that my brews were not great, I knew I had to make a few changes.
The V60 may be a pour-over device like the Kalita Wave but these two devices have different designs. The changes are not subtle: the V60 has a big hole in the bottom whereas the Kalita Wave has three holes, for instance. But I thought my Kalita recipe was a good place to start. This was a new brewing device and I needed a starting point. I chose a recipe and stuck with it, the same strategy I used to learn how to use the Kalita and the Aeropress.
The week ahead brought on many experiments. My first experiments were related to grind size. I made small changes to my grind size—changing the size by one on my Baratza Encore grinder—and noticed that each adjustment had a big difference on the final cup. I started at 16 and then moved down to 15, the recommended setting for the V60 on the Encore. I made brews with a range of grind sizes to see how I could improve my cup. With each change, I was still not producing a brew I was particularly happy with. I ended up settling back down at 15.
I thought grind size was the issue because my brews almost always had an underlying bitterness that I did not enjoy. But my time was not wasted. I made some bad cups—and one really bad cup—and in the process I learned that the grind size alone could not be the problem. So I set out to experiment even more.
What other variables could I change? I tried a continuous pour and a pulse pour and both were not yielding great results. The pulse pour seemed to have a bit of an edge so I stuck with it. I was not great with a continuous pour on my Kalita Wave so I thought that I would be best to stick with a pulse pour on the V60 until I made a cup that I felt happy to drink. My brews improved marginally by focusing on the pulse pour.
I thought a bit about agitation and run some—sometimes accidental—experiments where I did not swirl the brew at the end or where I swirled the slurry at the start of the brew. I found that swirling at the end helped to improve the cup but again the changes were marginal. There was still a bitterness in the cup that I did not like. So I experimented again.
Yesterday, I arrived at a cup I was happy with. I decided to stir my brew at the start and I did not dig a hole in which to pour the water. I know they say that you should never change two variables at once but I felt these were the only two things that I had not yet thought about. I did not dig a hole in the dry grounds because I did not really know why I was doing it. I was just following what I saw people do on the internet. After I poured water into the V60 for the bloom, I stirred using the north-east-south-west technique and stirred in all directions between.
This morning I used this technique on my two morning cups of coffee. In both cases, I produced a much better brew than I had in the past. One brew was slightly more bitter than the other but the bean was roasted darker, part of a taste experiment. The underlying bitterness that made some cups almost undrinkable was gone. I felt like I could taste more of the flavours in the coffee.
I wish I could deliver a definitive answer as to why these changes made my coffee taste better. I suspect that some of the grounds were not being properly saturated with water during my pours. My pouring technique is still very much a work in progress. This would mean that some coffee was prone to over-extract and other grounds would not extract as many flavours. I write this from a theory perspective. I cannot be sure.
I am happy I now have a recipe that works but I am not done just yet. I'll probably make a few more brews with this recipe but I like to experiment even when a cup is good to see how I can make a better cup. Would a continuous pour taste better if I stirred the slurry during the bloom? I wonder.
I did learn that what people said about technique on the V60 was right, at least in my case. I had quite a bit of trouble finding a recipe that works but then again this was a new brewing device. I have had to experiment with every brewing device to get a good recipe. I would probably recommend getting a Kalita Wave before the V60 because I found the Kalita Wave was a bit easier to use: the water flowed slower and I was able to make good-tasting cups quite quickly. My Kalita technique did help inform my recipe. These are just my thoughts; you should experiment on your own and see what you think about the V60.
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